Archive for the ‘High School Sports’ Category

World Select Team v USA Junior Select TeamFor all intents and purposes, Andrew Wiggins should be a very loud noise. The 18-year-old Canadian is six-foot, eight-inches tall with a seven-foot wingspan. He weighs approximately 200 pounds, and has a 44-inch vertical. He is the consensus number one ranked basketball recruit in North America, and is among the most hyped prospects of the last decade.

In addition to YouTube dunk montage maestros, college basketball coaches and recruiters focused themselves on Wiggins for the better part of the last two years, as he went about dominating the high school circuit as a small forward for Huntington Prep in West Virginia. The public, at least the portion that concerns itself with where high school sports stars attend college, was rabid with anticipation for the slightest hint of interest from the player.

Despite the amphitheatre of attention that this afforded the 18-year-old, Wiggins ended what seemed like an entire era of speculation on Tuesday afternoon with a whisper, or more accurately, a tweet. Avoiding the bright lights attached to television cameras and the claustrophobic conditions of a pressing media throng, the Vaughan, Ontario native quietly announced to his family, friends, teammates and a single reporter from a Huntington newspaper that he would be attending the University of Kansas next season. The rest of us would find out from the Twitter account of Grant Traylor, the one journalist with access.

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Kansas City Royals v Chicago White SoxSpending all day – every day – immersed in sports is a bit like working at Pizza Hut and eating nothing but pizza. If one is unburdened by such matters as personal health and waistline size, pizza is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, too much of a wonderful thing is likely to leave one no longer believing the wonderful thing to be all that wonderful.

Sports are really, really great. However, the more time you spend reading and writing about a topic, the greater the chance that its ugliness will be realized. This is why our focus often becomes embittered by all of the negative aspects present in sports. We forget why sports are so great to begin with. And so, that’s where The Sports Culture Happiness Index comes to play.

Every week, I’ll present the ten things that are making me happy from the world of sports. It might be a particular article, it could be a winning streak, it may even be an animated GIF. No matter what, it’s from sports, it made me feel good inside, and I hope it does the same for you.

Without further ado, sports the good:

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It seems as though – with the influx of opinionated online material and the popularity of polarizing cable news networks – we’ve continued to move further away from pretending as though the presentation of news is an unbiased production. While such a dismissal of a previously held principle will be bemoaned by some, in my mind there’s a benefit to acknowledging the source of one’s opinion and the motivation behind one’s commentary.

As much as we might despise the purposeful spin of the content being presented to us, the increased blatancy of a news organization’s perspective eliminates the pretense of objectivity. Such charades are ceased, along with the subtle trappings that accompany them. In its place we’re handed an exaggeration that’s easy to identify as it pushes us toward multiple sources in search of either acquiring the most accurate version of events or, far more likely, the version with which we might find the easiest to agree.

In a sense, it’s an elimination of authority. Much like a benevolent dictator might be the most preferable method of government, so to is unbiased news reporting the best possible presentation. Unfortunately, the fallibility of humans has produced a history of proving that neither option is actually possible, and so we’ve turned to better and less perfect alternatives.

In doing so with news, the importance of decisions in journalism has been highlighted. It seems remarkable now to imagine that past generations implicitly trusted what narrative – and the details that informed that narrative – a broadcaster chose to share with news consumers. However, the presentation of stories is always a matter of decision, and in making those choices, one expresses themselves and their biases, no matter how objective they attempt to remain.

On Sunday, Judge Thomas Lipps, presiding over a courtroom for a five day trial inside of a Steubenville, Ohio, courtroom, found high school football players Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl. Both defendants were sentenced to a minimum of one year in a youth correctional institute after which child-service experts will determine the remainder of their sentence. They will also be registered sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

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We often dismiss sports as little more than a distraction, which is normally accurate, but from time to time can be a severe underestimation. This is certainly the case with the story of Mitchell Marcus, the team manager of the Coronado High School Thunderbirds basketball team from El Paso, Texas. Marcus, who suffers from a developmental disorder, was given the opportunity by his team’s coach to dress for the last game of the regular season.

It was an honor just to be in uniform for the high school student who grew up loving basketball, but with a minute left, as part of his coach’s plan, he was surprised to be put into the actual game as a player. His team used multiple attempts to set him up for a basket, but each time he had difficulty receiving the pass or else he missed on his shot completely. With time winding down, Coronado used its last possession to once again set Marcus up, but the pass went out of bounds.

On the resulting inbound pass, Jonathon Montanez, from the rival basketball team at Franklin High School, got Marcus’s attention and passed the ball right to him, giving him one more chance at a basket. He hit his shot and the high school gymnasium erupted in applause, carrying Marcus off the court.

Montanez’s actions – the ultimate show of sportsmanship – contributed to making sports meaningful by understanding the relative unimportance of the score in comparison to a dream, and using the game as a means of facilitating that dream coming true. No, that’s not dust in your eye.

In Philippe Petit’s 2002 book, To Reach The Clouds, the author writes of tightrope walkers feigning difficulty during their act in order to make what’s ordinary to them seem more dramatic to spectators. After the hours and hours and more hours of practice and training that go unseen by audiences, their actual performance is somewhat mundane. Without a speck of mid-air theatre, the marvel of their daring act would lessen.

I was reminded of this on Sunday afternoon in Hamilton, Ontario, where 17-year-old Andrew Wiggins, the most highly rated NCAA basketball recruit of the year, played in an exhibition game with his Huntington Prep school from West Virginia against a selection of regional all-stars. It was all too easy for the 6-foot-8 phenomenon from Vaughan, Ontario, whose physical gifts have combined with preparation to form an unmatched talent.

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On September 29th, during a varsity football game in West Texas between Lamesa High School and Greenwood High School, one player verbally abused another player with a slew of racial slurs. In response to the disgraceful name-calling, 16-year-old Lamesa High student O’Sean Williams struck the offending Greenwood player. Both student-athletes were subsequently ejected from the game.

Sadly, racist slurs and taunting are common occurrences at every level of competition, on any continent in the world. On January 3rd, AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng responded to racist chants from the crowd at a friendly match against Lega Pro 2 side Pro Patria (who play in the fourth highest professional division in Italy) by kicking a ball into the stands and vacating the field with his teammates.

Following the walk-out, AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said that he would do the same thing again if one of his players was racially abused, regardless if it was during a friendly or an official Serie A match. The club’s director, Umberto Gandini, concurred, applauding his team’s actions via Twitter.

Very proud of the Milan players who decided to walk off the pitch today for racist abuse from a few idiots! No racism, no stupidity!

Unfortunately, Williams had no such support from the coaching staff or administration at Lamesa High. In fact, three days after his ejection from the game, a teacher at his school who also works as the team’s athletic trainer published a blog post on My Big Campus, a site that offers schools something similar to a corporate intranet, disparaging the student for reacting to a spiteful pejorative in such a violent manner.

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